stale by MacKenzie
you tell him, “thanks for letting me know, sir,” then you amble your way off the table still chewing your crackers. you got them at the back of the fridge this morning, the holiday’s leftover. stale like the lips of an indulgent lover.
you’re so cool when you play pretend, and even you know it. you’re so cool while hiding your pain, carrying the invisible weight on your shoulders as you walk away. from the laptop with the numbers that measured your knowledge into spoonfuls, from the microsoft excel, from your grades that never quite meet the stringent standards you set to yourself.
voices crowd around you. you can no longer distinguish if it’s yours or theirs.
of course, it’s just a subject and your grades aren’t failing anyway, are they?
of course, you know you’re not great at it, but at least you could have aspired to be the best.
of course, they have all been so kind and considerate, the blame goes to you and to no one else.
you want to calm down the tides swelling in your ribs, but you can’t. when it comes to control, you’ve already lost your barometer. you can’t get the grades you build grand pedestals. you can’t run enough miles to burn your baby fat down. you can’t get people to find you pleasant. you give and you give — your hardest, your art, your time and effort, but it seems like you’re an exception to some cosmic rule because nothing ever seems to come back to you.
in this room, you are both enormous and small at the same time. you eye the beautiful girls with glossy smiles from seeing the results of the exams. both pretty and smart. you take your seat in the back, secretly waiting for the ground to eat you up.
and when it doesn’t, you turn to your food. because that’s all you can do. you want to tear yourself piece by piece, but instead of blades you’ve got only your teeth. you lie and tell yourself you don’t care about the calorie contents. you’re going to screw your diet up anyway. you heat the room around with a heavy sigh. crumbs fall. you pinch the skin on your knee. you want to get a grip on something. you just want to feel loved. to feel wanted.
you get another cracker from your lunchbox. it’s your first meal in three days. a metal on the vise of your teeth. a salty poison. stale like the taste of every day you try to be someone they will like, someone with good grades, with jingle-chimes laugh. someone who’s less than a hundred pounds, with a lighter skin, someone you are not.
and it hurts, it hurts so much.
all you ever want is to be enough.
MacKenzie bears scars—literally and figuratively. As a poet who struggles with her mental illnesses, she believes that writing is one way to escape the prison in her brain. She mostly makes use of words to ink what she can’t say.